President Joe Biden announced last week that he will join striking United Auto Workers (UAW) workers on the picket line in Michigan on Tuesday. This will likely be the first time a president has ever walked a picket line.
Biden is branding himself as a labor president. And his actions are not just symbolic. We are currently in the middle of an era of labor action and labor power unlike anything we have seen in decades.
This isn’t a story that has gotten a lot of mainstream discussion. Economic evaluations of Biden’s first term, positive or negative, mostly look at measures like inflation, wage growth, and jobs. Those metrics are important. But they don’t necessarily tell us what’s happening with labor organizing. And they don’t explain why the upsurge of labor is so important for the future of the economy, and the future of democracy.
The people mainly responsible for union and worker successes are unions and workers themselves. But government policies can help workers along or stifle them. Biden’s policies, by and large, have helped.
Biden’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has made a couple of extremely important pro-labor moves. It just ruled at the end of August that if employers are found to have committed unfair labor practices during a union recognition election — such as firing pro-union workers — the company must immediately recognize the union. The NLRB also curtailed employers’ ability to delay union elections. [Continue reading…]